[3]

T H E   H O N E Y    J A R

I

One hundred years after the strange one

lay down dripping in darkness,

the soldered seals were worked

with picks and hammerfall.

 

The break of bronze welled in the chamber.

 

 

The elite traders swayed

like dying pendulums against the walls,

their heads following the hands of them

who chiseled in exact strokes by torch.

 

 

Then the pendulums gave out―the men’s eyes

froze, heads hummed, as the Arabs lifted the stone

lid of the honey jar.

II

Looking into the container, through the pip

thick with amberish transparency,

there, as if in death’s hard yellow womb,

the mellified man lay folded and macerated.

 

There the honey deepened the divine construction.

The wasted stomach, once for melting down what fruit

the world gave it, grew a brown fig

and glistened.

 

Merchant, toiler, trader―all alike and simple then

lurched souls and the bodies’ cold

came suddenly from cellar or from moon,

the underground-of-man, the sea.

 

 

III

The eyes had a look of meteor, as a distant color

come too near―the Arabs turned their faces

into further corners of the chamber

to feign cool waiting while they breathed.

The tradermen crowded the mouth

of the stone, to measure out their portions,

all sinew and gaunt, reek of camel-back,

still gawking.

 

 

Those shriveled orbs did worse than a mummy.

For each man measuring the corpse

found that day, and each thereafter,

some lingering stink of the living.

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